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Rent in Tucson rising faster than income, squeezing out tenants

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Posted at 11:16 AM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 14:17:09-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Rents in Tucson are rising far faster than paychecks. That’s driving some people out of their homes.

If you’re getting by on a limited income, imagine the day when you see your rent will go up more than 50 percent. Suddenly you’re not getting by—you’re getting out with maybe no place to go. We have one woman’s story but there are plenty of others like it.

Tucson’s population has been rising faster than apartment and home construction. That’s made our area attractive to investors who buy properties, renovate and raise the rents.

Mary Ann asked us not to show her face or use her real name. She’s 79 years old. She remembers the day she got a notice the rent at her west side apartment would go up more than 51 percent from $657 per month to $998.

“I just started shaking and crying. I just broke down. My son read It for me and told me what it said. You know, I didn't know what I was gonna do. You know, what was gonna happen because I can't afford anywhere near that amount of rent. That's not living on Social Security.”

She says she can’t find a new apartment she can afford so she’s planning on shuffling among her children’s homes.

Rent in Tucson is rising faster than income, squeezing out tenants

The website from Andmark, the Los Angeles company that owned Mary Ann’s complex tells prospective investors it seeks out properties in mid-sized cities with universities and corporate headquarters, “…where we have confidence in the strength of the middle income workforce, the stability of the properties and our opportunity to generate most of our return from current cash flows rather than long term projected appreciation.”

Pima Assessor records show Andmark as the owner of Mary Ann’s complex. In an email to KGUN 9 Andmark President Mark Mosch said his company has sold the property but the deal has not officially closed so Andmark still appears as the owner of record.

He wrote: “We have sold the building and you probably can speak with the new owners about this. I would comment that while we understand rent increases are more than they’ve seen in the past, the majority of increases fall below the national average and in fact our rents at this property were less than what your station published as the average for Tucson. As production and labor shortages continue to dictate the markets, costs for parts, appliances and services are also rising significantly, not to mention the greatly increased costs for salaries needed to keep the buildings properly staffed and maintained for the residents. Mission Creek also had just had a significant amount of money invested there by the owners in 2021 to make the property a much nicer place to live for the tenants. For those reasons increases must be consistently implemented. We are sorry to hear of any hardships incurred by tenants, but we feel we are doing our part to properly maintain the workforce housing stock in Tucson and our rates in fact appear to be at or below the current market rents in the area.”

Striving for current cash flows, like higher rents charged by many different owners has raised Tucson rents 25 percent in the last three years while average pay has gone up an average of four percent.

Mark Clark, CEO of Pima Council on Aging says, “We've seen a dramatic increase in calls to our helpline about this issue.”

Mark Clark, CEO of Pima Council on Aging says, “We've seen a dramatic increase in calls to our helpline about this issue.”

Clark says higher rents have hit older people especially hard but high rent is a problem that cuts across all ages.

He says some landlords who were accepting low income tenants through a government assistance program called Section 8 have dropped out of that program and shifted to more affluent tenants.

He says any local government thinking about limiting how much rents can rise will be stopped by state law.

“The State of Arizona has a law passed by the legislature, signed by the Governor that says that cities are not able to establish a minimum or a maximum rent increase per year, for instance. We've heard people talking about that as an option, but state law won't allow that to happen.”

Clark says there are some apartments being specifically built for low income tenants but they still require rents people with very low incomes may not be able to cover. There’s also the problem of time required to build more housing—at any price—to catch up with our growing population.

TUCSON RENTS STILL LOWER THAN MANY PLACES

According to RentCafe.com, average apartment rental prices in Tucson are 36% less than the national average.

Though it's under America's average of $1,572; the rate of rising Tucson apartment prices is noteworthy.

In November 2019, the average apartment in Tucson was around $900. Come November 2020, it increased by just over 8% to about $975.

However, from then to October 2021, prices rose nearly 18% to $1,150. This increase is more than double compared to the year prior.

Looking at neighborhoods more closely, the cost of living in Tucson's most expensive areas (Belmont Reserve - Bridlewood West, Continental Reserve and Ranch Estates Of Sunset Hills) is 51% higher than Tucson's average at $1,734.

As opposed to the least expensive neighborhoods (Drexel - Alvernon, Cherry Avenue and Mortimore) where costs are 31% less than Tucson's average at $796; the difference between living in the Sunset Hills versus Mortimore is 118% more.

Mayor Regina Romero has made it a key priority to ensure housing affordability.

"To ensure all Tucsonans have a safe and affordable roof over their heads, we need to build and preserve a broad array of housing options through a diverse range of policy and funding initiatives," she shared in a letter. "Equitable housing solutions are vital to achieving overarching city goals like climate resiliency, racial justice and community safety."

Anyone interested in learning more about the mayor's plans may do so by reading her Housing Affordability Strategy for Tucson.

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